By Olivier Laurent in France:
France pulls back from immediate Afghanistan troop withdrawal
28 January 2012
President Nicolas Sarkozy will keep French troops in Afghanistan despite rising popular opposition in France to the NATO occupation following the January 20 deaths of four French soldiers, killed while they were training Afghan soldiers.
The attack that killed the French soldiers was carried out by a 21-year-old Afghan soldier with no direct links to the Taliban. He said that he decided to do it after seeing a video showing several American soldiers urinating on the heads of dead Afghans. (See “Ten NATO troops killed in Afghanistan“)
The reactions of the dead soldiers’ families highlighted widespread popular hostility to the French presence in France. A sister of one of the deceased soldiers told RTL Radio: “It’s Nicolas Sarkozy’s fault that my brother died. He should bring everybody out of Afghanistan as soon as possible—all those young people, husbands, brothers. It’s not getting better, it’s getting worse and worse.”
Even before the incident, IFOP opinion polls showed growing opposition to France’s presence in Afghanistan—rising from 64 percent in August 2009, to 70 percent in August 2010, and to 74 percent in August 2011.
Only months from the May 2012 presidential elections, Sarkozy fears this popular opposition to the occupation of Afghanistan that has been going on now for over 10 years. His first reaction was to mention a possible withdrawal of troops before the official NATO date set for 2014, stating, “The French army is not in Afghanistan to get shot at by Afghan soldiers.”
He changed his mind on Wednesday, however, pompously declaring, “Let’s not misdirect our anger, let’s not be blinded by pain, however sharp it may be. The enemy today, yet again, is terrorism, which disguised as an ally has attempted, through France, to strike at the very idea of freedom.”
After some interviews with his American counterpart Hillary Clinton, Foreign Minister Alain Juppé declared that the government did not intend “to give way to panic …When I hear talk of immediate withdrawal, even at the end of 2012, I’m not convinced that this was fully thought through and studied.”
Juppé was making a dig at the presidential candidate of the French bourgeois “left”, François Hollande of the Socialist Party (PS), who had talked of a withdrawal in 2012 if he were to be elected president.
The decision to keep the French troops in Afghanistan is in line with the geo-political interests of French imperialism, which has tried to improve its relationship with the US and other European powers by placing its soldiers in the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan.
In August 2008 the Sarkozy government decided to change the placement of French soldiers, who until then had been confined to Kabul, in order to “put France quite clearly at the heart of the Western family, restore a relationship of confidence with the American people and leaders, and renew our relationship with the Atlantic Alliance.”
French troops will be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2013, Sarkozy affirms: here.
The presidents of Afghanistan and France agreed at the weekend that Nato should hand all “combat operations” to the Afghan National Army in 2013: here.
Mistreatment of Afghan women caused by far more than Taliban: here.
Modern-Day Army Deserters Can’t Count on Canada. Robert Wilbur, Truthout: “Military resisters have two choices: seek conscientious objector (CO) status, or flee to Canada…. There is the fate of service people who are denied CO status and who face a second, third or fourth deployment – with the possibility of having their legs blown off by an improvised explosive device or a bullet hole courtesy of our allies in the Afghan Army, whom we are training in weaponry. If you don’t want to give up your legs or your life, you may determine your only choice is Canada”: here.
At least 41 people, mainly children, have frozen to death in Afghanistan’s coldest winter in years, a health official reported today: here.
An analysis by Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, which the U.S. Army has not approved for public release but has leaked to Rolling Stone magazine, provides the most authoritative refutation thus far of the official military narrative of success in the Afghanistan War since the troop surge began in early 2010: here.
More U.S. troops lost limbs in 2011 than in any previous year of fighting since the 9/11 attacks, recently published Pentagon data shows: here.
Hundreds of opposition protesters forced French President Nicolas Sarkozy to take refuge in a Bayonne cafe for over an hour on Thursday, turning his election campaign walkabout into a public relations disaster: here.